Boeing has announced that first delivery of a 737 MAX, a 737 MAX 8 for launch customer Southwest Airlines, will be made three months earlier than originally scheduled – in the third quarter of 2017 instead of in the fourth quarter.
“Through our disciplined development on the 737 MAX program, the team has retired key technology risks,” says Scott Fancher, vice president and general manager, airplane development for Boeing Commercial Airplanes, during a briefing at the Paris Air Show 2013. “We have informed our customers and they are pleased they will be able to put these more fuel-efficient airplanes in their fleets sooner than planned.”
Since the launch of the Boeing 737 MAX program in August 2011, the 737 MAX team has worked to define the final configuration of the aircraft ‒ which will include new LEAP-1B engines from CFM International, a redesigned tail cone and the 737 MAX’s new Boeing-designed “Advanced Technology” winglet.
Testing in the wind tunnel and data analysis prove that the 737 MAX configuration, set to be final in July, will give customers a 13 per cent fuel-burn improvement over today’s most fuel-efficient single-aisle jets, according to Boeing.
The work done by Boeing has enabled the program to accelerate the 737 MAX production schedule, the company says.
After firm design configuration is achieved, the 737 MAX team will begin the detailed design of the aircraft. This final phase of the design program is scheduled for completion in 2014.
“We continue to follow our knowledge points through the development process and we have an executable plan. Testing, improvement workshops, and solid early data have allowed us to validate the airplane’s performance and move the schedule forward,” says Fancher.
“We know that the 737 MAX will be 8 per cent more fuel efficient than the A320neo, fly farther and offer our customers more value,” claims Joe Ozimek, vice president of marketing for the 737 MAX.
Airbus would strongly dispute this claim, particularly since many Airbus A320neo-family jets will be powered by a version of the CFM International LEAP-1 engine that is at least as fuel-efficient as the LEAP-1B version powering the 737 MAX.
This is because the fan diameter on the CFM International LEAP-1A for the A320neo family will be at least 10 inches larger than that of the CFM LEAP-1B (whose fan diameter is constrained to 68.5 inches because of the low ground clearance of the Boeing 737 MAX’s wing).
Hence the LEAP-1A will have much greater propulsive efficiency than the LEAP-1B and will run cooler, a major factor in determining its maintenance performance.
Additionally, Airbus is sure to demand that CFM International guarantee the LEAP-1A will be as fuel-efficient as the LEAP-1B and incorporate the same level of technological development, which will include the use of highly temperature-resistant ceramic matrix composite materials in the engine’s hot section.
The bulk of the fuel-efficiency gains in both the Boeing 737 MAX family and the A320neo family, compared to their single-aisle predecessors today, will come from their engines.
Furthermore, Pratt & Whitney’s new PurePower PW1100G-JM geared-turbofan engine will also power many A320neo-family jets. Ground- and flight-test results to date indicate the P&W engine will be extremely competitive in terms of fuel efficiency with the CFM International engine, which is yet to begin ground-testing and is roughly three years behind its P&W rival in terms of development.
Based on already-conducted flight tests, P&W is guaranteeing the PW1100G will be at least 16 per cent more fuel-efficient than the IAE V2500 and CFM56-5B engines on current-generation A320-family aircraft, as well as a great deal quieter than either of these engines.